LA jury convicts Hollywood private eye in racketeering case
By GREG RISLING, Associated Press Writer
A Hollywood private investigator was convicted Thursday on charges that he schemed to dig up dirt for his well-heeled clients to use in lawsuits, divorces and contract disputes against the rich and famous.
Anthony Pellicano, 64, was accused of wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone, and running the names of others, such as Gary Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through law enforcement databases to help clients in legal and other disputes.
Pellicano was convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy counts.
Verdicts on dozens of other counts were still being announced in court.
The indictment charging Pellicano and his supporting cast in February 2006 had Hollywood buzzing with speculation about who might be ensnared in the investigation and what secrets might be revealed.
Fourteen people were charged and seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, have pleaded guilty to charges including perjury and conspiracy.
But the biggest power brokers with links to Pellicano, such as famed entertainment attorney Bert Fields, Paramount studio head Brad Grey and one-time superagent Michael Ovitz, insisted they didn't know about his methods and weren't charged.
Pellicano starred in the real-time court drama as a tough-talking gumshoe who valued loyalty and secrecy as necessary virtues in his profession. He also acted as his own attorney but called only one witness and rarely raised objections.
The private eye decided against taking the witness stand to defend himself and kept true to his promise that he wouldn't betray the trust of his clients.
A number of dramas played out during the trial and cast a spotlight on the seamy side of Hollywood, detailing death threats, offers of murder and extramarital affairs.
Jurors watched as an uncomfortable Chris Rock testified about a model he believed was trying to shake him down. They saw a confounded Shandling study his name on a police records audit, and a stoic Ovitz recount how he had hired Pellicano to find the source of negative news stories about a company he was selling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders urged jurors not to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the case.
"This case is about corruption, about cheating, greed, arrogance and the perversion of the justice system. It just happened to take place in Hollywood," the prosecutor said.
During his closing argument, Pellicano insisted he shared no information with colleagues as he conducted investigations and allowed others to learn only what he wanted them to know.
"There was no criminal enterprise or conspiracy. Mr. Pellicano alone is responsible. That is the simple truth," he told jurors, referring to himself in the third person as court rules require for people who act as their own attorney.
He did not elaborate on what he was responsible for.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors portrayed Pellicano as a well-connected thug who ran a lucrative business by charging clients a nonrefundable retainer fee that started at $25,000.
They played a number of profanity laced recordings between Pellicano and his clients, including one with Rock, who hired the private eye to investigate a model who demanded money after claiming she was pregnant with his baby.
The actor-comedian said he hired Pellicano through his attorney and did not know about his tactics.
In most of the tapes played in court, Pellicano reassures his clients that he would make their problems go away but told them not to divulge what he had disclosed.
Attorneys for Pellicano's co-defendants — including a Los Angeles police sergeant and a former telephone company employee — also pleaded ignorance and tried to distance their clients from Pellicano, painting him as ultra-secretive.